Subscriptions to get items automatically delivered to your door — and save a trip to the store for things you know you’ll need on a regular basis — are a growing market.
And while the world of e-commerce startups may be dominated by hip, young companies, the model of shipping knickers every few months is getting competition from a company that pre-dates the Civil War.
Fruit of the Loom, a name familiar inside brick-and-mortar stores like Target and Walmart, is hopping on the trend, selling a six-pack of skivvies or set of undershirts directly to consumers.
Those who subscribe to Fruit to Your Door can decide how often they want a multi-pack of boxers or bikinis for a 30-percent-off promotional price and a discounted shipping rate of $3.95. Right now, the company is offering subscribers a six-pack of women’s bikini Cheap Sexy Lingerie for about $14 plus shipping.
“It’s a convenience and a good value,” said Bryse Yost, spokesman for the Kentucky-based company founded in 1851. The service launched in mid-November.
As transactions continue to migrate online, more traditional retailers have been experimenting with online shopping trends, especially those falling into the territory of Amazon — the e-commerce elephant in the room. Macy’s and Best Buy have launched same-day shipping. Grocers like O’Hara-based Giant Eagle and most recently Target now offer to drop off bread and milk at your home.
As for intimate apparel, start-ups like MeUndies, BootayBag and Panty Drop are among the web-native companies offering to help shoppers bypass the checkout line to buy their unmentionables.
“There are tons of different services out there in different industries,” Mr. Yost said. “For us, we saw it was an absolute need to offer this.”
“I think the younger, millennial audience is most accustomed to online shopping, but it’s becoming a norm across the board,” he said.
Such services are not entirely new. Amazon has been promoting its Dash buttons for customers to easily re-up products like laundry detergent and dish soap. Unilever acquired Dollar Shave Club, a mail-order company for grooming products, in 2016 in a deal said to be worth about $1 billion.
“One thing this move clearly suggests is that Fruit of the Loom thinks this is a big opportunity,” said Jeff Inman, a professor of marketing and associate dean for research at the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz Graduate School of Business.
Mr. Inman noted the advantage for retailers that offer automatic replenishment of a product — regardless of the item — is that once customers set up a service, they’re not likely to change it up often.
“We’re creatures of habit,” said Mr. Inman, who is the president of the Society for Consumer Psychology. “Even if you’re shopping online, you still can compare prices. But if you have it automatically shipped, you’re probably not going to be as diligent in comparing prices.”
For customers, there’s still the very human response of getting excited when something shows up in the mail, even when you’re the one who placed the order. “That definitely plays into it,” Mr. Inman said. “It’s like a reaction to getting a present.”
Los Angeles-based MeUndies has outgrown two office spaces and is building a third. The purveyor of men’s and women’s Cheap Sexy Lingerie, socks and bralets also expanded its warehouse to 30,000 square feet. The company said it has sold over 5.5 million pairs so far to customers in the United States, Canada and 47 other countries.
The company, founded in 2011, believes the subscription e-commerce model still has room to pick up more business.
“The growth rate of our subscription membership has skyrocketed over the past year due to unique membership experiences and perks that our members receive,” CEO Bryan Lalezarian said in an email.
Companies need to make it easy for customers to personalize their experience — and not overwhelm them with too much product, said Vibhanshu Abhishek, assistant professor of information systems at Carnegie Mellon University.
“You want to avoid subscription fatigue,” he said.
Another reason that companies like the
Cheap Sexy Lingerie model? Such services provide reliable business.
“If you think of a retail business, there’s a lot of uncertainty about who is going to come back and buy,” Mr. Abhishek said. “If you know you have so many customers every month, a lot of the randomness is taken out.
“If I’m giving them good service, I know this customer is locked in,” he said. “Instead of spending money on getting new customers, I can spend money on improving the quality of the experience.”